I'm sure you've heard time and time again– consistency is key in fitness. Consistency is a part of the process of building the body that you are proud to call your own, but that's only part of the foundation. After turning 22 recently, I have had time to reflect on what fitness has done for me, as well as how I've accomplished my goals thus far in fitness and health. Through this self-reflection, I have identified my nine unofficial pillars of fitness.

1. Research

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Knowledge is power. Literally. I have poured hundreds of hours of research into dieting and exercise science over the past five years to educate myself. This has translated to increased efficiency with my workout plans, my diet, and has allowed me to help educate others by passing along helpful information. The fitness community always gives back.

2. Fruits, Veggies, and Everything Green

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I wish I could just eat cheeseburgers and pizza all day every day. But part of being an adult (and especially being a fit adult) is realizing the necessity of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Go talk to any mother of three, or take my word for it, because we'll both tell you that your colorful foods are packed with necessary micronutrients for performing your best.

3. Balance

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Lifting and cardio isn't everything. Neither is partying all the way through the weekend. Finding the balance between counting your macros or calories and simply living your best life is the key to longevity for a fit lifestyle.

4. Weights

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Ignore what I said in #3. Weights are love. Weights are life. Ladies, lifting weights won't make you look a roided-up bodybuilder. Guys, you don't have to fall victim to the gym bro cult to be a lifter. Get in the gym and put in the work, no matter what kind of work you are doing.

5. Tracking Progress

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If you expect to succeed in fitness long-term, becoming goal-oriented is crucial to avoiding a motivation burnout. Setting goals for your weight, body image, strength, endurance, diet, and non-scale goals are all great ways to track your progress and maintain ~consistency~.

6. High Protein

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You can never have whey too much protein (Get it? Whey protein?). But seriously, a high-protein diet is one of my favorite approaches to my overall diet to stay lean. Protein is satiating, and lean protein is usually low in calories so you can stay fuller, longer, without overconsuming. Also if you didn't know, ample protein is the instrument necessary for building lean muscle.

7. Time

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Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither is a fit body. Consistency (that thing I've been harping on this whole time) is vital to long-term progress. Most importantly, don't get frustrated when you do not see the results you are trying to obtain immediately. One week is nothing in the context of a five-year fitness journey, but it may seem like forever if you've only been working out for a month.

8. Rest and Recovery

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If people should be able to do anything intrinsically well, it's rest. However, we can get caught up in hustling every day to achieve results that we forget the necessity of good recovery. It takes time and experience to learn that recovery plays a larger role in your consistency than actually working out. Listen to your body first and foremost.

9. Happiness

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All in all, everything you do in your life should benefit your happiness in the long term. Trust me, you don't have to torture yourself with a "Get Skinny Quick" scheme or some fad diet where you starve. Also, you don't have to clang and bang weights for 14 hours a week or run a 5K every morning to see progress. Spend the most time finding what makes you happy AND helps you make progress — fitness won't feel like a job when you find it.